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U-Verse vs. OTA

Expert

U-Verse vs. OTA

Well, I did two things the past couple of weekends that have enabled me to get a nice comparison of U-Verse vs. Over-The-Air (OTA).

I finally got a new television.  My old, aging Toshiba 40" rear-projection CRT looked good, but it was 8 years old.  I have replaced it with a Sony KDS55A3000, one of the last ones available since Sony has discontinued these.  It's 55", significantly bigger than my old set, and is liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS) display technology.

I have to say that the picture on this thing looks absolutely fabulous.  This, of course, is a double-edged sword.  While simultaneously looking incredible with some HD content (and even SD sources), it makes the compression artifacts on U-Verse that much more visible (and they weren't exactly subtle before).

So, this weekend I wanted to try to hook up an antenna and see what an OTA signal looks like on this set.  I bought a Channel Master CM3010 ($59), which is a small (52" width, 15" depth) VHF/UHF antenna suitable for in-attic mounting, with the ability to pick up signals within a range of 15-20 miles (i.e. suburban or metropolitan area).

I mounted it and am receiving about 12-14 digital channels within the Houston area.  One of the big comparisons I wanted to make was to look at the NBC feed from U-Verse vs. OTA while watching the Olympics.

Pros of OTA vs. U-Verse:

- The OTA signal looks absolutely fabulous on still or very slowly moving pictures.  The crispness of objects and detail of those objects surpasses U-Verse's signal.
- The OTA signal has much better quality in dark or low-contrast areas such as backgrounds.  There is nothing like U-Verse's color banding and low update rate of these areas of the image.
- I'm getting several channels in the Houston area that are available OTA that U-Verse doesn't carry, such as KPRC-Wx (24 hour Houston weather) on channel 2.2, two additional KUHT (PBS) feeds, 1 additional KHOU feed (CBS), 2 additional KTRK feeds (ABC), and several Conroe and Galveston stations.
- The OTA feed is not subject to 2HD U-Verse limits.  In fact, I can now record 2 HD channels on U-Verse and watch a 3rd (or more, if I hook the antenna feed to other TVs) from OTA.
- The 5.1 digital audio from the OTA feed is flawless, and dropout-free.
- OTA is completely free, with the exception of the antenna cost and mounting hardware/time/effort.

Cons of OTA vs. U-Verse:

- The OTA signal exhibits macroblocking on moving objects the same as U-Verse's does.  In fact, the OTA macroblocking is actually more objectionable than U-Verse's is.  On U-Verse, which is MPEG-4, when the motion overwhelms the ability of the bitrate to carry detail, the MPEG-4 algorithm tends to just smear/fog out the detail.  MPEG-2, used by the OTA signal, results in "crisper" macroblocks, so you tend to get a more digitized/pixelated looking area of motion which is more noticeable.
- Channel changing is not as quick.  It takes 1-2 seconds for the TV to lock onto the digital OTA feed.
- Only local channels available, obviously.
- No DVR pause/record capability for OTA.

Overall, the OTA signal is probably superior to U-Verse's signal in terms of picture quality, but not nearly as much as I thought it would be.

I'm happy to have the OTA as an additional option to watch, even if it isn't a pristine signal.  It does increase the available viewing options.

If you'd like to investigate OTA possibilities for your area, do the following:

1. Go to AntennaWeb, and click on the button to choose an antenna.  You don't have to give the web site your full address, just put in your ZIP code, and then on the next screen fine-adjust your location using the map.  You will end up with a list of channels available in your area, with the digital vs. analog ones identified.

Each channel will have a color code, which indicates how far away from you the transmitter is.  Yellow is the closest, then it proceeds to green, light green, red, blue, and violet for the deepest fringe areas.  This will affect how large of an antenna you have to get.

Also for each channel is the compass bearing to the transmitter location.  If most of your stations are within a 20 degree to 30 degree swath, you can use a directional antenna.  If the channels are spread out all over the compass, you will need a multidirectional/omnidirectional antenna (these only work at close range), or you will have to have an antenna rotator.

Finally, for each channel is the frequency assignment, which is the channel number slot that the station is assigned to.  This is important because it tells you what type of antenna you can get away with.

There are 3 different, separate bands for TV transmission.  Channels 2-6 are in the VHF Low band.  These are the hardest channels to receive because they require large elements on the antenna.  Channels 7-13 are in the VHF High band.  Channels 14-51 are in the UHF band, these are the easiest to receive and can use smaller antennas.

If no channels in your area use the VHF band, you can get a UHF-only antenna, which is likely to be much smaller than an equivalent VHF/UHF antenna.  If there are no channels in your area on channels 2-6, you can use one of the (very) new VHF High/UHF combo antennas which are smaller than an antenna that gets both VHF High and VHF Low.

Also listed in the chart are analog channels (which will stop transmitting Feb. 17, 2009), and future digital channels (which will exist after the Feb. 17, 2009 analog shutdown).  This is important - you need to see what the channel map looks like after Feb. 17, 2009 - so make sure your antenna works well with that channel map.

For example, KPRC (NBC) in Houston broadcasts their analog signal on channel 2 - notoriously difficult to receive.  KHOU (CBS) is on channel 11, KTRK (ABC) is on channel 13.

The digital transmissions of these channels are KPRC-DT on channel 35, KHOU-DT on channel 31, and KTRK-DT on channel 32.  After Feb. 17, 2009, the analog transmissions on channels 2, 11, and 13 will cease.  KHOU-DT will move from channel 31 to channel 11, replacing the analog feed.  Same with KTRK-DT, which will move from channel 32 to channel 13, replacing the analog feed.  However, KPRC-DT is staying on channel 35, and channel 2 will go blank.

So, after the Feb. 17, 2009 shutdown, there are no channels in Houston broadcasting the VHF Low band.  Thus, I don't need a big full VHF/UHF antenna to receive all digital channels - I could use a VHF High/UHF antenna like the Winegard HD7694P.  This particular antenna has more gain than I need because I'm only 14 miles from the transmitters, so this is not the one I bought.  But if I were 30 miles away, this would have been the ideal antenna for me to get.

So, now that you know the distance to transmitters, whether you need omnidirectional or directional, and what bands you need to cover, now you look for an antenna:

2. Go to HDTV Antenna Labs, which will allow you to put in these parameters and get a list of appropriate antennas.  Each antenna has some reviews, ratings, and links to online retailers.

By the way, don't be fooled in the store or online by anyone advertising an "HDTV" antenna, as if that's something special.  The antenna has no idea whether your receiving a digital or an analog signal, or whether the signal is SD or HD.  It's only about the transmission frequency and direction - nothing else.  You don't need a superwhamidyne special digital thingy to receive HD, as some salesmen would have you believe.

As always, this is only my experience, YMMV. :smileyhappy:
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Message 1 of 22

Re: U-Verse vs. OTA


Koolkid1935 wrote:
Our LCoS has minimal SSE, but it is still noticeable.  It really bugged me when we first got it, but I don't really notice it all that much anymore.  It could have something to do with the fact that we have never gotten it professionally calibrated (brights are too bright, whites are too white, etc), which I am still thinking of getting done sometime.
Message Edited by Koolkid1935 on 08-15-2008 02:18 AM

 

I would like to have mine calibrated as well. I guess when I save up the $300 or so dollars it costs I will get it done. I was able to use the DVE disc along with reading reviews and how they set up the TV. I also browsed the forums to see how the other owners were setting up their TV's. That pretty much gave me a good baseline then I tweaked it for my particular situation. During the daytime I have alot of ambient light so I have to have the brightness cranked alittle more than I would like. Maybe reading through some of those can help you get a little closer to pq nirvana. Just a thought. IMHO  :smileyhappy:
Message 16 of 22

Re: U-Verse vs. OTA

Updated tests by HD GURU for 2008 models.

 

HDTV tests 2008

 

 

Message 17 of 22
Expert

Re: U-Verse vs. OTA

And I read they are expecting HDTV prices to really drop near the holdiays?

 

Message Edited by spd2demun on 10-17-2008 02:14 AM
Message 18 of 22
Scholar

Re: U-Verse vs. OTA

ive been wanting to get an OTA set up so i can connect to our  old 15 tv set so i can have two games going during college football saturdays

 

i researched and clearstream 4 seemed like it was for me, im 40+ miles away from the transmitters up in frisco with big mountains blocking line of sight + i liked the modern design compared to the old school 70s looking ones

 

UHF reception = FTW! im picking up 52 channels with solid reception all around, compared to the 30 i could scan previously, of which about 3 were solid and the rest were dodgy

 

VHF stand for Very High FAIL in my case, i got zilch. and wait for it.......

 

our abc affiliate and nbc affiliates (2 of the 3 ota nets that carry CFB) are both HI BAND VHF!

 

but like i said, i had researched some so  id heard about how VHF wasnt spotty, but i was at least hoping it could get a taste of those channels every now and then like my old amped rabbit ears did. im gonna have to get me one a them vhf antennas i reckon, if anybody has a recommendations im all ears, or eyes in our case.

 

if i ever get around to it im gonna get around to the south side of my townhouse and point it at the monterey stations and see what they got for me

Message 19 of 22
ACE - Master

Re: U-Verse vs. OTA

I almost responded to SJ's postings until I realized that they were from August of 2008

 

Yes CTEL08, OTA can be fun and many of you recall that I am a DX'er (long distance reception).  52 stations, including subchannels is GREAT!  With rabbit ears, my TV connected to one of the Government coupon connected Zenith boxes only gets about 15 and not all of them reliably.

 

SomeJoe, are you regularly rescanning your OTA setup?  According to this website, the NW Gulf may get some "tropospheric enhancement," later in the week and you may be rewarded with stations from East TX and LA, if your antenna si aimed anywhere clpose to the E or NE.  In fact, Houston area DX'ers often get TV and FM from Florida, a few times per year.

 

 

*The views and opinions expressed on this forum are purely my own. Any product claim, statistic, quote, or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider, or party.
Message 20 of 22
Guru

Re: U-Verse vs. OTA

I'm not much of a DX'er (though I've dabbled), but the guys in some of the local OTA threads at avsforum.com are hardcore.  The Chicago thread, in particular, is organized by a meterologist who's into DX'ing; they've got several others who participate, including a couple of engineers from local TV stations.

 

Nifty stuff.

 

On the subject of VHF...VHF-HI isn't too bad if you have the right antenna.  VHF-LO is pure, unadulterated evil and, when I'm Emperor, will be abolished and any continuing to use it will be put to death.

 

Local CBS affiliate (the only local station really not subchanneling, which means all bandwidth for the glorious 1080i broadcast) was, until shortly after the analog sunset, broadcasting on channel 3 (mapped to 2.1).  Now it was broadcasting from a high place (the building-formerly-known-as-the-Sears-Tower tower), but I'm ~45 miles out.  Y. U. C. K.  Never could get anything.  I know of people who could get it...but would lose it whenever their fridge motor would cycle.  BLAH.

 

It's moved to VHF-HI, now, so I can pull it most times.  But man-o-man, that was terrible.

 

Still, as I'm sure someone said a long time ago in this thread...you'll never get a better TV picture than from OTA.

Message 21 of 22
Highlighted
ACE - Master

Re: U-Verse vs. OTA

Yes the AVS forum is a great place for OTA Digital TV and / or DX'ing discussions. 

 

Many European countries have killed all VHF. I have read LOTS on WBBM-DT.  Tragic case of being stuck on VHF-Lo.  IMO, VHF-Hi isn't much better.

 

UHF should have been the way to go, here but the mobile market wanted lots of the UHFspectrum and in fact, they want more.

*The views and opinions expressed on this forum are purely my own. Any product claim, statistic, quote, or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider, or party.
Message 22 of 22
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